I have always loved the old stuff recorded by Barclay James Harvest (BJH). Songs like Poor Man's Moody Blues, Suicide, Hymn, For No One or Polk Street Rag belong to my favourite BJH songs. However, I was truly disappointed by the most recent albums of the band as they only consisted of mediocre, boring pop songs which have barely anything to do with the old material of BJH.
Now, singer and guitarist John Lees recorded a brand new studio album called North under the name of John Lees' Barclay James Harvest. Beside Lees, the other musicians are Craig Fletcher (vocals, bass), Jez Smith (keyboards, vocals) and Kevin Whitehead (drums, percussion). The album contains nine tracks all in the vein of BJH, but certainly not as good as the songs recorded in the seventies. So, all songs could be described best as melodious, but watered-down pop songs unlike the music BJH created in the old days. Actually, I think North is a disastrous album as it only holds one real good track: On Leave.
On Leave is not only the longest track on North, but by far the best one. I would describe it as an almost classic BJH track filled with lots of emotion, breathtaking guitar solos and superb singing. The remainder of the material sounds very disappointing since these songs are dull (The Real Deal), mediocre ( Unreservedly Yours), funky (In Wonderland), pop-like (North) or just simply utterly boring ( The End Of The Day). The latter being a short'song' filled with strings, piano and spoken words, or better: reciting a poem of Ammon Wrigley.
Aside from the amazing track On Leave, the opening track If You Were Here Now is also worth mentioning, since it is a decent melodious, ballad-like song with nice guitar work from John Lees. My conclusion: an album with only two good songs doesn't suffice; I think I'm going to listen to Live Tapes (1978) again...
*+ Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
Where to buy?